Conservation officers have a bone to pick with whomever dumped dozens of deer carcasses in a popular swimming area of the Nanaimo River.
Marilyn Zink and her daughter, Basanti, noticed something odd in the Nanaimo River this week as they drove to and from their home on Wilkinson Road in Cedar.
On the opposite bank, just upstream from the bridge on Cedar Road, they could see strange white shapes near the shore. As the river level dropped, the strange shapes became more obvious.
The women made a shocking discovery when they drove across the river to investigate Monday.
At the end of a boat launch, on land that was once a private campground but has since become a popular swimming and picnicking area, someone had dumped dozens of animal carcasses which the women thought were from goats, in the water near the shore.
The carcasses had mostly been reduced to skeletons and were lying in the shallow water amongst putrid chunks of rotting flesh. Zink and her daughter took photographs, but didn’t know who to report their find to.
“There was quite a few body skeletons and then the other parts, too,” Zink said. “I mean, this is disgusting. People go down there in the summertime and set up their lawn chairs and go swimming in there.”
The river, which has not had a fast, strong flow this winter, had not washed the remains away, but even if it had, the bones would only have been carried past another popular swimming area about 200 metres downstream.
Stuart Bates, conservation officer with the Ministry of Environment, who investigated the site Sunday, confirmed the carcasses, numbering about 25 in all, were from wild deer.
“They appear to have been harvested in that they had been butchered in some sense,” Bates said. “The meat had been removed. Some of the bones were cut with saws. It appears they were harvested by hunters and the remains were disposed of there.”
Aside from some legs having been sawed off, the skeletons are mostly intact with the heads still attached.
Hunting remains are supposed to be disposed of in remote areas where scavengers can feed from them. Improper disposal can carry a fine of $115, but the culprits could also be charged under the wildlife act for attracting dangerous wildlife, such as bears, which visit the area. Fines for that crime range from $230 to $345.
Bates estimated the remains were dumped, probably out of the back of a pickup, in late January.
“Now, the hunting season concluded Dec. 10 and the limit is three, so there’s a lot (of regulations) that could be involved,” Bates said.
He said it is also possible the deer were legally harvested by First Nations.
“So it may not be illegal hunting. It may just be illegal discarding of litter,” he said.
The skeletons do not pose a health hazard because no drinking water is collected from that part of the river, Bates said, and there are no plans to clean them up at this time.
Anyone who saw anything or has information about this incident is asked to call the conservation officer hotline at 1-877-952-7277.